The LG Star. The dual-core beast from the east that was once a mere twinkle in our eye has managed to find its way to the Engadget mansions, having been lent to us by a very generous (and very anonymous) tipster. It's clearly a test device, as evidenced by its diagnostics menus and lack of a lockscreen, but there's no disguising the power that lies within it. We put the Star through a battery of common Android benchmarks and the results were, in a word, outstanding. Basically, Tegra 2 will give anything your current phone's running an inferiority complex. Join us after the break as we delve deeper into this upcoming powerhouse of a handset from LG. One thing's for sure: CES 2011 can't come soon enough.
Before we get to the raw power encased within the LG Star, it's requisite to discuss the phone's external hardware. This isn't a blade server, after all, and people are going to expect their smartphone to look the part too. Some perfectionists will be put off by the generous heaping of bezel at the bottom of the Star and the quirky spine-like column that spans its rear, but on the whole it's mostly an unadventurous and safe design, exuding the same uncomplicated slate aesthetic as most of its contemporaries. There's one device we're immediately reminded of when handling the Star and that's HTC's Droid Incredible -- albeit with the slight (major?) difference that LG's new handset offers a larger 4-inch display.
The 800 x 480 panel on this phone is rather gorgeous. We can tell from its imperfect blacks that it's not an AMOLED display, but it also exhibits viewing angles that are distinctly superior to your run-of-the-mill LCD. Whatever it is, it delivers a lucid and vibrant picture. The glass covering it is flat -- none of that fancy Nexus S stuff -- but slopes off at the sides to soften the edges and improve ergonomics slightly.
A pair of grilles at the bottom of the handset provides the sound output and, presumably, input -- there's only one loudspeaker sat behind one of the meshes, we're guessing the other's occupied by a mic (if that seems familiar, it's because Apple's been doing it for a good while now). We were pleasantly surprised by the loud and punchy sound the Star's solo speaker puts out, which, allied to the strong display, provides the basic competency required of a compelling multimedia phone.
The software on this bad boy is definitely not fully baked yet -- it didn't even have a lockscreen on our first boot yet suddenly discovered one on the second -- so we're leaving that stuff aside until LG itself decides to furnish us with a unit. If you simply must know what the company's slightly tweaked Android 2.2 experience is like, you might want to check out its LU3000 handset, which is about to launch over in South Korea in the coming days.
An additional note worth making here is that the initial Star leak came with the juicy implication that Gingerbread could be the Android version shipping with final units, so we'll have to just wait to find that out. The unknown maturity of the software should also be kept in mind when looking at our benchmark scores -- for all we know, LG could already be testing much better code than the stuff that's on our proto unit. Still, check out the video below for our performance test results, we doubt you'll be disappointed.
Those numbers were also borne out by our hands-on experience with the LG Star, which tracked our homescreen swipes without hesitation or perceivable lag. The unfinished software does chug down quite often, seemingly entranced in an existential contemplation as to where it's going and what it's doing with its life, but the hardware performance is unquestionably top-notch. Hell, it's punching out a new notch all for itself when it comes to raw CPU prowess. Sadly, the Star refused to play back any video clips we loaded onto it, irrespective of format, so we weren't able to verify our suspicion that it's capable of handling 1080p content. YouTube video in HQ mode and Flash clips embedded on webpages played without a hitch.
This is seriously shaping up to be one of next year's highlight devices (and if it isn't, it just means 2011 will be a spectacular year in smartphones). We'd almost call it a return to form for LG, but then the Korean company has never really had the sort of form the Star's exhibiting -- it's never led from the front in the way this handset promises to do. We'll be hoping to see a lot more of the Star at CES, perhaps with some Gingerbread firmware on board... how about it, LG?